Oh man. School was rockin’ today.

We did our part in class today by finally connecting all this stuff we’ve been thinking about tone in music with tone in writing. It was tone-rific! OR tone-tastic! It was a tone-tacular.

Okay, I think I lost everyone on that last one.

Here’s the gist of it: While in music, artists can use pitch, volume, instrumentation, rhythm, tempo, and voice–among many other tools–to create tone, writing is an entirely different beast. Here’s a description of a few of the writer’s tools, with reagrd to the creation and maintenance of tone:

  • Word choice: What emotions do your descriptive words convey (adjectives, adverbs, and verbs)? Consider the difference in tone between saying “a fluffy marshmallow,” and “a bloated marshmallow.” I rest my case. Bloated, indeed. The very thought…
  • Sentence structure: Long chains of short, simple sentences create a different rhythm and tempo than long, complex sentences. Sometimes short sentences rush readers through suspenseful events. Sometimes they slow people down, with all their subject/verbs and periods breaking up the action. Different sentence structures do different things depending on context, but it’s something that an author mindful of tone should consider.
  • Plot organization: A linear plot that follows a logical order of events creates a particular feeling that is quite different from a non-linear plot told in a stream-of-consciousness style. Do you want the events to be crystal clear in the mind of the reader, or do you want to create an air of mystery or intrigue by keeping some events secret as you reveal others?
  • Choice of details: Not all writing is super-descriptive. Some writers want to move you swiftly through the plot and not to get distracted by “ambient” detail. Other writers tell their whole story through details that careless readers may miss. This is a major tool in your writer’s toolbox for creating a specific feeling or tone in your story.
  • Dialogue: The characters who speak in your story are a lot like the singers of the pop songs we listened to. As a writer, you have to give each speaker a personality, and a unique way of expressing themselves. The dialogue in your story goes a long way in establishing a particular tone, whether it be lighthearted or depressing; dark and moody, or frivolous.

Anyway, we discussed all of this. If you want to see more examples of each of the “tools” mentioned above, check out my lecture notes attached to the bottom of this post.

After that discussion, the class read “The Lottery,” by Shirley Jackson (which you can pick up from me tomorrow, if you need it) and filled out a worksheet review of theme, symbol, and tone, which is also attached to this post.

Tomorrow, we begin the process of brainstorming for a new story. Unbelievably, I have the feeling that tomorrow will be even more exciting than today.




Tone lecture notes

“The Lottery” worksheet

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